Why the ‘Just Do It’ Approach Doesn’t Improve Employees’ Writing Skills
In our previous blog post, we discussed an all too prevalent issue: the fact that technical and business professionals often lack the writing skills they need to complete necessary business documentation. How can your organization’s leaders help employees improve their writing?
Nike might encourage us to “Just Do It,” but unfortunately, that isn’t always the best approach when it comes to writing. Like trying to run a race when you’ve spent the past year on the couch, writing can turn out badly if you don’t learn the right methods and practice them regularly. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Effective writing for business, technical, and science fields is a process that can be clearly defined. Teaching the essential steps to your employees, and offering them tools for navigating each part of the process, can increase their successes and decrease their stress levels.
Step 1: Know Your Readers. Understanding who will be reading a procedure, manual, report, email, or proposal is vital to crafting a missive that hits its target.
- How much knowledge do readers have about the topic?
- How much depth do you need to devote to background or terminology?
- Are readers friendly to your cause, or will you need to convince them of your point?
- What do readers expect from the document?
- What action do you want readers to take after reading the document?
- How will the document be delivered and read?
Step 2: Know Your Outcome. Once you understand the audience, it’s time to make sure you are clear about the action you want your reader to take: that is the outcome.
- Be direct and clear by avoiding “pompous” language.
- Use sensible organization within each sentence, paragraph, section, and throughout the document as a whole.
Step 4: Know Your Priorities. Writing, like any skill, requires instruction first and practice second. Professionals need to understand that writing is a primary, not a secondary, part of their jobs. In many cases, that written document is the deliverable and is just as important as conducting experiments, developing software, or visiting clients. They should plan writing time just as they schedule other tasks, and management should encourage writers to spend time on writing tasks.
Quality writing training can help your company leaders develop a proactive approach, getting employees the knowledge they need and developing a means of maintaining lasting success. Whether you choose onsite training for the entire team; individual, self-paced training for specific employees; or customized webinars, the results will pay for themselves in long-term improvement, less time spent writing, and easier-to-read documents.